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Graduate Student Council Announces Forum for Teaching Fellows

By Callie H. Gilbert, Crimson Staff Writer

The Graduate Student Council will host a “Teaching Town Hall” on Feb. 19 for teaching fellows and other graduate students to air grievances and look for solutions to problems in the classroom and in dealing with faculty members, the council’s president, Summer A. Shafer, announced at its first monthly meeting of the semester Wednesday.

Shafer said that plans for the town hall meeting came about to address the difficulties and obstacles teaching fellows experience during shopping week and the rest of the school year, as they look for teaching positions and deal with over- or under-enrolled sections. She specifically said that the lack of standardization in section sizes causes uncertainty for teaching fellows who may or may not be needed in the course.

“We as graduate students have to make our own structures,” Shafer said.

Responding to a question from a fellow graduate student, she said that the purpose of the meeting is solely for discussion, not for advocacy.

“No administration will be present, and nothing will be filmed,” said Shafer, who is a graduate student in the History of American Civilization Program. “This will be an open space.”

Talking about the meeting, Shafer also said that there is sometimes a strained relationship between teaching fellows and the faculty members they work for. She recounted the story of one teaching fellow who was asked to retrieve dry cleaning for his advisor.

Members of the elected council encouraged everyone in attendance to attend the open forum and share any experiences they have had or heard of involving teaching fellows.

Clarisse R. Wells, a graduate student in the South Asian Studies program, said that she believes that the Teaching Town Hall will be significant shaping the future of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the teaching fellows at Harvard.

“I’m hoping it’s a success,” said Wells, who was one of approximately 30 attendees at the meeting in Dudley House’s graduate student lounge. “Many teaching fellows have told me varying stories about their experiences. Some are great and some are bleak.”

During the meeting, Shafer also announced that various positions on the council were currently vacant and open to graduate students, including the positions for Representative of the Longwood Medical Area, Publicity Manager, Representative for Masters Students, and senator for the Harvard Graduate Council, a University-wide elected student body.

At the meeting, GSC Vice President Shelley H. Liu also discussed the upcoming Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, which recognize outstanding faculty mentoring to graduate students and will be awarded on April 10.   Liu encouraged students to join a newly established committee to help organize the event.

“It’s an incredibly moving experience to participate in,” Shafer said of the ceremony. “I went last year and teared up. It was ridiculous.”

Other items on the agenda included a discussion on the selection of Commencement marshals on behalf of GSAS and SEAS. Shafer also raised the possibility of holding another tax filing talk for graduate students.

—Staff writer Callie H. Gilbert can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CallieGilbert95.

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